The movement to banbottled water sales in favor of using reusable water bottles filled from the tap is still in its infancy compared to the movement to ban plastic carryout bags and to use reusable shopping bags instead. While only one city has banned the sale of bottled water within city limits, many cities have banned the sale of bottled water on city property including city owned buildings and parks. Some National Parks and some but not all Colleges and Universities have also banned the sale of bottled water in single-use single-serving plastic bottles.
In this article, we will examine why banning the sale of bottled water in single-serving single-use plastic bottles is not a smart decision. Despite the glowing rhetoric of using refillable water bottles filled with tap water, this solution is not all that it is cracked up to be. While a ban on bottled water sales is similar to a ban on plastic carryout bags, the major difference is that water is consumed by mouth, where taste, not to mention the perception of health risks, becomes the discriminating factor in whether refillable water bottles with tap water are accepted by the public. But even if accepted by the public, the question of whether banning the sales of bottled water in single-serving single-use containers is the right solution, remains.
What is the difference between “real” and “phony” environmentalism? A real environmentalist is one who carefully evaluates the impact of environmental actions and considers all of the facts including primary and secondary impacts. In addition, a real environmentalist is willing to consider alternative environmental actions or even to modify the proposed environmental action in order to eliminate or compensate for unintended and damaging consequences. The phony environmentalist, on the other hand, embraces emotional “feel-good” ideas that sound wonderful but produce unintended and damaging consequences. The phony environmentalist, when confronted with these consequences, is often dogmatic and unwilling to change proposed environmental actions or even to consider alternatives designed to minimize the unintended and damaging consequences, because they are driven by “feel-good” emotions rather than a logical thought process.
The real environmentalist embraces “real science” and the phony embraces “pseudo-science” and “feel-good” ideas that sound good but are not based upon real science. In fact, entire books have been written on the phenomenon of phony environmentalism, such as “Eco-Fads” by Todd Myers and “Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and The Rise of The Anti-Scientific Left” by Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell. Unfortunately, phony environmentalism has a track record that ignores negative environmental impacts, wastes resources, and imposes dubious environmental programs on the public through law. This dubious track record has destroyed the public’s perception of genuine efforts to improve the environment.
Arguments to support plastic carryout bag bans are weak, generalized, emotional, and irrational. These arguments can be better described as nothing more than lies, myths, half-truths, distortions, and embellishments. It doesn’t take a lot of time for a person with an open mind and some skills in sorting fact from fiction to examine the arguments and come to the conclusion that a ban on plastic grocery bags is unsound. But it takes a commitment to objective truth to sort fact from fiction.
Develop a Skeptical Show Me Attitude
So how do you immunize yourself from the misinformation that bag ban proponents attempt to foist on you and keep yourself from being hoodwinked and having the wool pulled over your eyes? You have heard the saying “I’m from Missouri, show me!” This little saying describes the kind of skeptical attitude that you should develop, that you do not take things on faith, that you cannot be easily fooled or conned, you have to see the evidence and the proof. Developing a skeptical “show me” attitude, learning to ask pointed questions, will make you less susceptible to misinformation and false propaganda.
Familiarize Yourself with the Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations
Start by reading and familiarizing yourself with the contents of the article titled “The Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations of Bag Ban Proponents” (van Leeuwen & Williams, The Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations of Ban Ban Proponents, 2013). This article will provide you with a basic understanding of many of the myths and misinformation typically used by most bag banners.
Despite a bag ban for two years in the City of San Jose, litter is still a prevalent problem. While it is true, fewer retail store plastic carryout bags are observed, litter and unregulated plastic bags is still a very visible problem. On the website: http://js-politicsandburacracy.blogspot.com/2013/12/san-jose-bag-ban-almost-two-years-later.html one San Jose resident posted photos of litter in San Jose. This is worthwhile seeing if you think that a plastic carryout bag ban will reduce litter in your area.
This video is taken in Campbell, CA. Campbell Park and Los Gatos Creek Trail Southbound to San Thomas Expressway. The entire route is virtually trash free.
This video is taken in Santa Clara, from Scott Blvd southbound to El Camino Real eastbound to Lafayette Street. This video is proof that Santa Clara despite allowing plastic carryout bags and polystyrene food ware to be used without restriction hardly has any litter and it is nearly impossible to find a improperly disposed of Styrofoam food container let alone a grocery or shopping bag. In fact not a single plastic shopping bag was seen floating around in “city” controlled areas.
In contrast, San Jose, despite a two year ban on plastic carryout bags, its streets are just as littered as before the bag ban if not more so.
The fact is that imposing a bag ban to eliminate less than 0.6% of litter is a waste of money and effort, not only the costs incurred by the city but also the millions of dollars that residents must spend to comply with the bag ban.
Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) document the environmental impact of a specific project including alternatives. In the case of EIRs supporting Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinances a specific solution to a plastic bag litter problem is proposed that requires a ban on plastic carryout bags and imposes a fee on paper bags in order to encourage (i.e. coerce) shoppers into using reusable bags. The environmental analysis to support this proposed solution is never provided. For example, if plastic carryout bags are bad and should be eliminated, then an analysis should be provided to show that using paper bags instead of plastic bags results in an environmental impact that requires mitigation by reducing the use of paper bags and using an alternative product. That analysis is never performed or provided. In fact, the objectives of the EIR specifically prevent that analysis and alternative from ever being analyzed. If brought up during the public comment period, the response is that it does not meet the objectives. In other words the objectives are cleverly used to defraud the public of an important analysis and a legitimate alternative solution. Instead of impartially evaluating alternative solutions, someone else’s pre-conceived solution is shoved down your throat by misguided public officials.
On 16 December 2013, the Ventura City Council voted 6 to 1 to go ahead and prepare a Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance and BEACON EIR addendum for consideration in six months by the City Council. The council also voted to support the efforts of State Senator Padilla to pass a bill to institute a statewide single-use carryout bag law rather than a local ordinance.
Currently there are two bills going through the California State Legislature concerning plastic carryout bags. SB-405 is authored by State Senator Padilla and AB-158 by Assembly member Levine. Both bills appear to have started out with the same text which is being marked up as the bills goes through the different committees in their respective houses.
At the 15 October 2013 Santa Barbara County Supervisors board meeting, the Santa Barbara County Public works Department, Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division (RRWMD) requested Supervisors to receive and endorse the draft Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance for the unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County and to direct staff to initiate review of the Ordinance pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In addition, Supervisors were requested to designate the County Public Works Department, Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division as the Lead Agency under the CEQA. Supervisors approved the request by a vote of 3 to 2. Continue reading Santa Barbara County Supervisors Not Well Served→
Bag Ban Proponents like to point out that the recycling rate for plastic carryout bags is 5% or less and that because of the low recycling rate, plastic carryout bags should be banned.
Bag Ban Proponents totally miss the point. When plastic carryout bags are reused as trash bags, waste can liners, to pick up pet litter, dispose of kitchen grease, dispose of dirty diapers, or the myriad of other uses and end up in the landfill filled with trash, they cannot be recycled. Bag Ban Proponents appear to have a particularly difficult time comprehending this simple fact. Continue reading Plastic Bag Recycling Rate – A Non-Issue→
The majority of reusable bags currently in use in California are made from non-woven Polypropylene (PP) or fabrics such as cotton. While PP is technically recyclable, currently there is no recycling infrastructure for PP bags in the state of California. Furthermore, although cotton bags are technically compostable, there is no composting facility currently available. Hence, both PP and cotton reusable bags must be disposed of in the trash or landfill.
A very small percentage (much less than 5%) of reusable bags are made from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) or Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE). These bags are recyclable via the In-Store Recycling Bin at your local retail store.
Environmentalists like to say that the recycling rate for plastic grocery bags is only 5% and therefore they should be banned. But the recycling rate for reusable bags is closer to 0%. Should they not be banned?
The city of San Jose is one of the few cities in California that conducted litter surveys before and after a plastic bag ban went into effect. The city conducted surveys of litter on city streets, creeks, and storm drains. The city published results in a memorandum dated 20 November 2012.
Environmentalists and Bag Ban Proponents love to say that “San Jose saw an 89% reduction in plastic bag litter after the bag ban.” However, that is not what the San Jose 1 Year results show, as stated below:
“The various litter surveys demonstrated a reduction in bag litter of approximately 89 percent in the storm drain system, 60 percent in the creeks and rivers, and 59 percent in City streets and neighborhoods, when compared to data collected from 2010 and or 2011 (pre-ordinance) to data from 2012 (post-ordinance).” (Romanov, 2012)
Stating that San Jose saw an 89% reduction in plastic bag litter deceitfully overstates the 59% reduction in plastic bag litter found on San Jose city streets and sidewalks; and the 60% reduction in plastic bag litter found in creeks and rivers.
Not only are environmentalists hyping the wrong number, the number itself is based upon a reduction of 71 fewer plastic bags found in 22 storm drain catch basins and hardly the kind of number to be tossed around.
Environmentalists and Bag Ban Proponents should be using the 59% reduction in plastic bags on streets and sidewalks instead of the 89% reduction in storm drains.